Height as a Proxy for Cognitive and Non-Cognitive Ability
Taller workers receive a substantial wage premium. Studies extending back to the middle of the last century attribute the premium to non-cognitive abilities, which are associated with stature and rewarded in the labor market. More recent research argues that cognitive abilities explain the stature-wage relationship. This paper reconciles the competing views by recognizing that net nutrition, a major determinant of adult height, is integral to our cognitive and non-cognitive development. Using data from Britain's National Childhood Development Study (NCDS), we show that taller children have higher average cognitive and non-cognitive test scores, and that each aptitude accounts for a substantial and roughly equal portion of the stature premium. Together these abilities explain why taller people have higher wages.
The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.